I encounter ever more recipes where the pepper is to be crushed with a knife handle. Okay, so we want freshly and coarsely ground pepper – I appreciate this. I also want my knife handles and cutting boards undented, and I hate cutting myself during the effort of preventing everything from slipping and rolling about. Ordinary pepper mills have improved from worthless-as-a-rule (25 years ago) to pretty reliable (if you can afford them) – but they don’t provide the knife-handle-crushed pepper that make mushrooms in butter and many other creations a real success.
In Sweden, I got hold of one of Skeppshult’s most archaic products, a two-piece cast-iron tooth-meets-tooth mortar which has served me well for sixteen years. While the teeth have worn down to match the advanced age of the device, the pepper-crushing works as fine as on the first day. The only impractical feature is the large cork stop for the pepper reservoire, which tends to crumble and becomes difficult to uncork. I will fit a handle on mine, which shouldn’t be too difficult.
This is easily the most used gadget in my kitchen, apart from the 24-cm frying pan.